Car combat has been the red headed stepchild of video game genres almost since its inception. The rash of Twisted Metal clones that came in the early days soured many, and even Sweet Tooth and the gang haven’t had the best track record as of late. Last generation, Burnout took up the car chaos crown, with its traffic checking and Crash Mode, but the developers got lost in Paradise City and are now toiling away at the endless barrage of samey Need For Speed titles. Gas Guzzlers Extreme, a new entry in the genre by Gamepires, isn’t going to set the world on fire, mostly due to its lack of flamethrowers. However, the game does strike a nice balance between the crash heavy races of Burnout and the heat seeking missiles of Twisted Metal that any fan of the genre should take notice of.
After a quick abilitease, Gas Guzzlers‘ career mode starts you off with a junker car and just enough funds to strap machine guns to the top of it. From there, you can choose one of three types of races on random tracks. You can choose a regular Power Race, which is standard racing with power ups such as land mines, oil slicks, and smoke trails included. Or you can strap into a Battle Race, which adds in the aforementioned machine guns along with shotguns and rocket launchers you can purchase later. Finally, there is a gauntlet style race similar to a Burnout Eliminator event, where a rival is knocked out of the race at the end of every lap, although you can also blow them up before then if you so choose.
Gas Guzzlers Extreme (PC)
Publisher: Iceberg Interactive
Release Date: October 8, 2013
You’d think that the standard racing in a game like this would be subpar and coasting on the weapons, but Gas Guzzlers has surprisingly engaging gameplay. There is a distinct lack of invisible walls and barriers on most of the tracks, allowing for creative drivers to make their own shortcuts in a way that is impossible in most racing games. The handling is arcadey, but that’s good in a game like this, allowing you to bounce off of walls and then keep going without getting stuck and taking a barrage of rockets to the back. You get a real sense of speed, and even when you do bounce off of those walls, there are enough broken windows and flying hoods to let you know that you’re damaged, and that damage even carries over to after the race, which is a nice touch.
Of course, the main draw of this game will be the combat part of car combat, and the game doesn’t drop the ball here either. In most racing games, I can’t stand to play in the “on the hood” first person view, but you get a distinct advantage for doing this here in the form of a reticle to aim your various guns. There is even a use for the behind the back view, as there are certain guns that can shoot behind you Mario Kart style. Combine that with the arcade gameplay, and Gas Guzzlers is the unique game where these alternate views makes sense, turning the battle races into high speed shooting sequences that feel right out of Call of Duty, although you’re in control of both steering and shooting. The cars aren’t bullet sponges, and it’s the rare race where every combatant gets out alive. The satisfaction you get from aiming down the “sights” and taking out the guy that just passed you with automatic shotguns is equal with the best in class car combat games.
As far as I can tell, these are the three events in campaign, and it just goes on, allowing you to unlock new cars, weapons, and upgrades with your winnings. Its a bit of a grind after the first few unlocks, but it is nice to have some direction in what would otherwise just be a quick play mode. Besides the campaign mode, there is also the standard single race, as well as multiplayer which includes even more off the wall concepts such as a capture the flag mode ripped straight from a shooter. As someone from the United States, I found it hard to find a server with low ping, and the ready up system is confusing enough to require an in-game text scroll explaining it, but once you get into a game the fun is still there. You can even just fill a server with bots and go with no problems, although there is no way to join a game in the middle of a race.
So there is no doubt that there is fun to be had with Gas Guzzlers, but its the style of the game which may make you think twice about seeking it out. The AI racers are all named with puns ranging from Willie B. Long to Otto Mobile. Your custom player is voiced if you so choose by impressionists spouting one liners as either a poor Arnold, a poor Jack Nicholson, or a halfway decent Duke Nukem. During the career, you’re hired by companies such as “Mighty Cock”, and you get bonuses for sporting their logos on your vehicles (although I’m not sure exactly what there is to gain from advertising brands in the middle of barren deserts amidst a sea of explosions). Personally, I found these jokes to be a throwback to the type of humor found in the Twisted Metal franchise, low quality but tongue in cheek. However, it is EVERYWHERE in the game, and if you cringed while reading this, Gas Guzzlers might not be for you.
The other sticking point might be the price. Gas Guzzlers Extreme will cost those in the USA $25, which is a step above the accepted price for downloadable games of this nature. However, I’d argue that Gas Guzzlers is a step above the standard downloadable fare. There has been much ado lately about the death of the B-Tier game, especially with the closings of Midway and THQ. However, Gas Guzzlers is firmly placed in this category. The game sets its goals and then firmly accomplishes them without going above and beyond, which is especially easy to do considering how few Car Combat games get made in 2013. It’s not going to hit anyones Top 10 list, but Gas Guzzlers is a fun, easy to play experience that is easily recommendable to anyone who misses the glory days of the genre.